As part of ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ the Minister for Education has committed up to £3 million to support digitally excluded learners in maintained schools where there was no existing provision in place from their school or local authority. The funding is managed through the wider Hwb EdTech infrastructure programme.
A digitally excluded learner is defined as ‘a learner who does not have access to an appropriate internet connected device to engage in online learning activities from home’.
The Welsh Government reacted swiftly to the pandemic by securing a national connectivity deal with major mobile operators for MiFi devices and established a technical solution that allowed all local authorities and maintained schools to repurpose existing devices for use in a learner’s home.
Local authorities, working in conjunction with their schools, were invited to identify the number of MiFi devices and software licences they needed to support their digitally excluded learners. Once numbers were confirmed, the Welsh Government purchased the appropriate number of MiFi devices and software licences.
Based on the demand identified by schools and local authorities, there have been 10,848 MiFi devices and 9,717 software licences funded by the Welsh Government and deployed across Wales. These figures do not include any local arrangements made by individual local authorities or schools to loan other equipment to learners.
How have the digitally excluded learners been identified?
All local authorities have engaged with their schools to identify digitally excluded learners. Once identified, local authorities have been able to access central funding to repurpose existing devices and provide MiFi connectivity devices where required.
Local authority and school responsibilities
Local authorities and schools were responsible for identifying which learners required access to devices and/or MiFi connectivity. Once identified, the school in conjunction with the local authority, has responsibility for issuing devices and/or mobile connectivity, along with ensuring there are appropriate end user agreements in place.
How to apply for this support
The implementation varies from local authority to local authority, but it is very much driven by the school’s understanding of individual learner needs. Parents and carers can contact their child’s school to establish what support is available, while schools should contact their local authority if they have not been contacted already.
Getting devices to learners
The Welsh Government’s support programme has concluded following the information provided by schools and local authorities. Digitally excluded learners across Wales should now be in receipt of the required device and connectivity. Any queries should be directed to your school who will be able to give more specific details on local deployment arrangements.
Getting help using online education platforms
The Welsh Government and its partners have been working across the education system in a number of ways to offer support during the COVID-19 emergency. The latest education guidance can be found on the coronavirus pages on the Welsh Government website.
Wales is very well placed to support schools, practitioners and learners during this period as we have Hwb, our national digital platform for learning and teaching. Hwb provides its users with access to a range of free bilingual, digital tools and resources. Our distance learning support on Hwb includes resources to support you with distance learning activities as well as links to advice on health and well-being.
‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ pulls together contributions from across education, and beyond, to provide support to the whole of our education system. More information on the plans and actions that support this can be found in the 'Stay Safe. Stay Learning' section.
The ‘Keeping safe online’ zone on Hwb also provides extensive support to all education stakeholders, including a wide range of resources and other support services.
The wider Hwb EdTech programme provides a national approach to digital services for maintained schools in Wales, supporting them in exploiting the transformational benefits that digital and technology can have on education. Through the £80 million investment in financial years 2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021, local authorities have been able to develop a standardised, sustainable and consistent approach to replacing core and wireless network infrastructure, along with increased plans for replacing and/or increasing devices in schools.
The Welsh Government does not hold centrally recorded information on the onward distribution to families, children and young people. This process is managed by the local authorities and schools themselves. Nor do we hold information about additional support that has been arranged as part of the local authorities own digitally excluded learner programmes of work.